After hosting 17 straight Thanksgiving dinners, I can offer survival advice for those just starting on the turkey journey. Of course, the short answer is wine. However, I recommend moderation because it takes a sharp mind to coordinate all the various cooking times and temperatures of the side dishes. Once the food is on the table, it’s perfectly fine to throw back some Chardonnay and relax.
Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew (Literally and Figuratively)
Roasting a turkey is not hard. Just refer to butterball.com, and you will be fine. It’s the sides that get you! I would resist the urge to try something difficult that you have not made before. There are just too many distractions (picture four kids running through your kitchen as you try to see if the soufflé is falling). If you have one complicated dish you love, then go for it. But, keep the other sides simple: store bought rolls, baked potatoes, spinach salad are all easy to set out on your buffet.
First timers: DO NOT buy a copy of Gourmet Magazine and pick three side dishes, each with 14 steps, and attempt to pull that off. You will be ridiculously stressed and won’t be able to enjoy your family.
Control freaks don’t want to let anyone else in their kitchen. I understand. I have been there. It seems easier to just do it all yourself, and you want to make sure it’s all done right. But, I say: let it go because people really want to help. I am not suggesting you put your father-in-law in charge of the gravy, but there are other ways to lighten your load. Kids can set the table and fill glasses with ice water. Anyone can help transfer food to serving dishes and set them on the table. Clean up is a fabulous way for all the men to help. Get those boys/men to bring in all the dirty dishes. They are capable of scrubbing and drying the china. I have seen it happen!
You may have generous folks offer to bring something. If the person is a great cook, then you should definitely take them up on it. But, let’s say for example, someone says they are happy to bring a store-bought pie. CRINGE! It goes against every Southern bone in my body to contemplate serving a store-bought pie. However, for me, it’s a question of numbers and time. If you are having a small group and just need one pie, then by all means make it yourself. If you are dealing with twenty plus people and need several pies, then it’s really too much on you to make them all. Take a deep breath and say yes to the store pie. You might be surprised at how good it is.
When entertaining family for any holiday, try to remember they love you no matter what. Mishaps that might upset you at the time will end up being funny stories for future years. We love to laugh about the time my husband pegged my mom in the head with the champagne cork or the time that I tried to carve the turkey upside down. (That was early on in my turkey career.) And of course, there’s the time that all the sides were ready and the turkey took another hour to finish cooking. I was so tense while we were waiting on that turkey, but really, a perfect meal is not what Thanksgiving is all about.
Image Source: BigStock